A HISTORY RESOURCE FOR WOLVERTON AND DISTRICT
Mainly Wolverton, Bradwell and Stantonbury, Stony Stratford and Calverton
We do not know when the first Christian Church was built on the Wolverton Manor. No archaeological evidence so far has been uncovered that might help to answer this question, and there are certainly no written records.
We know that the Christian mission form Rome began in 597 in Kent and it is probable that Christianity spread to Wolverton in the 7th century AD. The early establishments were minsters (from the Latin monasterium) which provided a base for monks to travel outwards on their missionary work. There is no evidence of a Minster near Wolverton. The nearest in Buckinghamshire was at Wing. In Northamptonshire there was one at Higham Ferrers, although not, apparently, at Northampton and another was established in Bedford. The spiritual needs of North Bucks were probably served by one or other of these minsters until the establishment of a church.
As far as this establishment is concerned we can only guess. Saxon church foundations that do survive date, from the 10th and 11th centuries, but it is likely that as Christianity embedded itself some sort of local building was erected to serve the needs of the population. The best guess is that it was a wooden building and in the case of Wolverton it is a reasonable assumption that it was close to the present church of Holy Trinity. What the structure resembled is again pure speculation. Not all Saxon churches, for example, were complete buildings. Some merely provded some cover for the altar while the congregation gathered in the open air. Later buildings were more complete, but were usually modest buildings. I imagine that Wolverton's church, serving a population of no more than 200, was an unpretentious structure.
Church building only became something that we would recognize as a church after the Norman conquest. The Normans were aggressive and ambitious church builders and most of the cathedrals and churches that we now recognize date from the post Norman period where grand impressive architecture was an imperative. It was a matter of prestige for the new landowners, so it is probable that Mainou, the new baron, built a new church once he became established. There is however, no record that would confirm this.
Early Norman History
Mainou was succeeded by Meinfelin who was probably able to consolidate the wealth of the barony. In his will of 1155 he founded Bradwell Priory and provided it with some land and gave the church to the priory. Thereafter, until the dissolution, the Church at Old Wolverton was under the control of the Priory.
We can infer from this that there was an existing church at Wolverton, presumably under the direct control of the lord until 1155 and thereafter administered by the priory. No permanent priest appears to have been in charge until 1240, or thereabouts, when a man called Alan was Vicar. (However, I have seen an early 13th century document that may indicate an earlier Vicar. More on this in tomorrow's post.) I assume that various monks or chaplains were appointed before that but with no specified living associated with the church. It is probably worth bearing in mind that although there was a settlement in the field to the west of the church, there were probably families scattered across the manor. Stony Stratford did not emerge as a market until the end of the 12th century.
There is some record of the medieval church:
some notes by William Cole, rector of Bletchley, written 23rd April 1754;
a drawing in the British Library, dated 1807;
and remains of the original building incorporated in the tower.
The drawing here shows the medieval church from the south. Here is Cole's description.
'Passing thro' this Parish in my way from the Archdeacon's Visitation held at Stony Stratford, I called in to look at the Church; which is a small building with the Tower, Cathedral Fashion, between the Nave and the Chancel; the last of which is tiled and the Nave and South Aisle leaded. It has 4 bells. The Chancel is very elegantly paved thro' out with black and white Marble. The Altar is railed in and stands on an elevation of 3 steps. On the North Side worked in the Wall is a very antique Altar Tomb of black marble but without arms or inscription to inform one to whom it appertains. The 2 Ends of the Arch and above it are adorned with very old-fashioned Carvings of Oak of Medallions of Men's Heads and old Shields. On the opposite side of the Altar against the south Wall is erected a very noble Monument of white Marble, having the Figure of a Gentleman in a Roman warlike Habit reclining on his left side, with his Eyes looking up to Heaven, and his right Hand laid on his Breast.'
The medieval church that was pulled down in the 19th century dates from the reign of Edward III, and therefore of 14th century origin. It is probable that parts of the previous church were used to build the newer church. It looks as if the chancel formed the first church with a later addition of the tower. The nave was likely a later addition and finally the crenellated south aisle. The drawing below shows the plan of the present church and the medieval foundation in blue.
Vicars of Wolverton - Holy Trinity
1260 William Bullingham
1274 Robert de Buckingham
1298 Ralph de Wolverton
1298 John de Ely
1334 Richard Ordwy
1361 Adam Vincent de Caldecote
1370 John Waite
1371 John Syward
1390 John Napper
1394 Richard Dey
1404 Thomas Wychewode
1405 Robert Gornesthorpe
1405 John King
1411 Robert Bengrove
1417 William Dalby
1431 Thomas Legeley
1435 Richard Stacey
1438 Simon Fitzralph
1438 Nicholas Pardon
1447 Thomas Spencer
1452 Nicholas Pardon
1452 John Daventre
1457 William Camyle
1477 John Hancock
1517 William Herose
1543 John Rawlinson
1546 George Turner
1587 Ralph Langford
1596 Robert Reynolds
1631 Thomas Pen
1645 Robert Ladbroke
1645 Gilbert Newton B.A.
1660 Robert Bostock B.A.
1661 Robert Duncumbe
1673 Alexander Featherstone M.A .
1684 Joseph Dogget M.A.
1686 Edward Chebsey
1702 Thomas Evans
1720 Edmund Green
1754 Edward Smith MA.
1782 Samuel Hale L.L.B.
1794 Henry Quartley
1838 Henry Reade Quartley M.A.
1856 William Pitt Trevelyan
1871 John Wood M.A.
1895 Francis Edward Rooke
1902 Arundel St John Mildmay
1925 David J Thomas
1937 Frederick Waller
The amendment to his list is the date of Henry Quartley's incumbency. Samuel Hale died in 1794 and Quartley, who was a nephew of a former Radcliffe Trust estate manager, was appointed thereafter. e was certainly the incumbent in 1797 when he began to make representations to the Trust for a building and repair program. Ratcliffe says that he was also appointed to the living of Stantonbury in 1832, which he was, but this date is shown as his appointment to Wolverton in a history of Holy Trinity, when by this time he was fully entrenched. Quartley died in 1838 and was succeeded by his son, Henry Reade Quartley.
I have also come across some references in the 13th century Wolverton deeds held in the Bodleian Library. These all relate to the the time when William FitzHamon was Baron, so as they are undated, they could relate to any time between 1220 and 1247.
In one deed (No: 49)
William son of Hamon grants and confirms to William Capellanus of Wolverton with 1/2 virgate in Wolverton which Hugh Capellanus once held.
In another deed (244) he is a witness as William the vicar of Wullverton, and in another (474) the grant of a piece of land is described as between the land of Master William Vicar of Wlverton.
The deeds clearly describe William as Vicar of Wolverton and the first deed identifies a half-virgate of land (15 acres) which was probably assigned to support the vicar.
This would suggest a line of Hugh, followed by William, before Alan becomes the incumbent circa 1240.
For the most part these vicars maintained a living by having a piece of land attached to the church, usually known as glebe land, and through tithes - payment in kind of a fraction of the yield of the peasantry. Some of this was used to maintain the church and support the Priory. After the dissolution of the monasteries these practices continued until the church and rectory came back into the hands of the Longueville family in the 17th century. For about 100 years after that the income of the vicar was a matter of dispute until it was finally put to rest through a court hearing in 1805.
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